169. The Four Pennies – Juliet (1964)

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In a decade full of memorable number 1s, Don’t Throw Your Love Away by the Searchers is often forgotten, but the song that replaced it at the top is even more rare. Blackburn-based four-piece the Four Pennies hold the dubious distinction of being the only UK chart-toppers to fail to chart in the US during the British Invasion.

The Four Pennies formed in 1963, consisting of Lionel Morton on vocals and rhythm guitar, the marvellously-named Fritz Fryer on lead guitar, Mike Wilshaw on bass, keyboards and backing vocals and Alan Buck on drums. Originally known as the Lionel Morton Four, they wisely changed their name after a meeting above a local music shop on Penny Street. Their debut single Do You Want Me To was a flop, but the ballad Juliet, written by Wilshaw, Fryer and Morton, began receiving lots of airplay. It was intended as the B-side for second single Tell Me Girl, but demand meant the sides were flipped. Yet despite this demand, and a week at the top, Juliet is all but forgotten. Why so?

Lack of info on the Four Pennies and this song make Juliet somewhat of an enigma. It’s a haunting ballad, and sounds old-fashioned compared to other 1964 hits. Yet at the same time, it has a vague psychedelic feeling to it, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. It could be that it reminds me of something the Coral would have come up with back in 2005 – and it helps that the two groups look like quite similar too. The similarity should make Juliet appealing to me, but I think it’s been forgotten for two reasons. The first is that it doesn’t fit the narrative of Beatles-era pop that ruled the airwaves in 1964, and the second is that it unfortunately isn’t that much cop. Not bad B-side material, though.

The Four Pennies had a few more hits and released the album Two Sides of Four Pennies (great title), but by 1965 sales figures were already starting to dwindle, so Fryer left the group to form the the folk trio Fritz, Mike and Mo, with Mike Deighan and Maureen Edwards. David Graham replaced him and their fortunes briefly improved, but by the end of 1966, with Graham gone and Fryer back on board, their second album (Mixed Bag) had flopped (the name doesn’t exactly fill you with hope, does it?) and the Four Pennies dissolved. Morton went on to marry actress Julia Foster, who went on to become Ben Fogle’s mum after they split. He was also a children’s TV presenter in the 60s and 70s. Fryer became a producer, with Motörhead among the acts he worked with. He died of pancreatic cancer in Lisbon, Portugal in 2007, aged 62. Buck, who had been in Johnny Kidd & the Pirates before the Four Pennies, died of a heart attack in 1994, aged only 50.

With a few exceptions, the number 1s of 1964 so far have been somewhat of a letdown compared to 1963. It was the second half of the year before things went up a notch.

Written by: Mike Wilshaw, Fritz Fryer & Lionel Morton

Producer: Johnny Franz

Weeks at number 1: 1 (21-27 May)

Births:

Swimmer Adrian Moorhouse – 24 May

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